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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Fundamentals of Molecular Diagnostics. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Terms and Definitions



Codon A three nucleotide base sequence that codes for an amino acid


The genetic code composed of 64 codons that code for 21 amino acids and 3 stop codons. (amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and stop codons stop the writing process much like a period at the end of a sentence)

Nucleic acid Polymer made of monomers; two examples are RNA and DNA
Transcription Process of transferring information from DNA into an RNA message
Translation The formation of an amino acid from RNA
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) A double-stranded polymer of nucleotides that houses genetic information
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) Typically a single-stranded polymer that is much shorter than DNA but chemically similar with a few differences (e.g.- uracil replaces thymine).
Replication Reproduction of DNA content from parent to daughter cell during cell division
Amplification methods Techniques that increase the amount of the target, the detection signal, or the probe so that sequences are readily detected
Fluorescence The emission of light at a longer wavelength when the light is excited at a shorter wavelength
Oligonucleotide Short single-stranded nucleic acid
Probe A nucleic acid used to identify a hybridization target
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) An amplification method performed in vitro